Considered possibly the greatest speech of the 20th century, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered 50 years ago this past year from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
To sum up his life and calling – Dr. King was a man of amazing courage, faith, and conviction. He led the nation toward a vision of trust, compassion, and unity.
With faith in God, and in the Great American Experiment, Martin Luther King worked to see fulfilled, as he said that day, “a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
Much has changed in the 50 years since that speech was given. We are not perfect, and though we will never find perfection this side of heaven, we will continue to strive for Dr. King’s vision of what America would be, what it has already become, and what it will be in the future.
Putting politics aside and putting people first, all people – I want to present these three thoughts this weekend as we celebrate Dr. King’s birth. Take heart that we are seeing Martin Luther King’s vision come alive in our own time.
First – The President of the United States, Barack Obama is African American – I’m stating the obvious here; President Obama is a black man. The fact that we elected an African-American here in the U.S. speaks not only to America, but to the world.
In that speech in 1963, Dr. King spoke of how “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” He then continued, “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
President Barack Obama’s election speaks to Dr. King’s aspiration of opportunity for all, that everyone can succeed, and even become president. A person’s political point of view doesn’t matter here; he is our president. And of the many people I have spoken to who did not vote for him, all are still proud that here in America a black man can be, and has been, elected president.
Second – Martin Luther King spoke of Freedom – Dr. King insisted, “Let freedom ring” – He spoke of the “the urgency of the moment,” and he rightly stated the country could no longer tolerate “racial injustice” – He declared “Now is the time to lift our nation.”
We cannot be free without releasing ourselves and each other – working together, approaching each other in love, with hearts of reconciliation and understanding. Dr. King speaking of the white community and it’s relationship to the black community, said that they “have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.” We are all working together to make his Dream a reality. We are freely becoming one people as Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned.
Third – Martin Luther King’s Dream – is America’s Dream – In 1963 he looked forward to “…that day when all of God’s children…[would] join hands…” – I see now is the day he spoke of. – As Dr. King closed his speech, “when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to [and do] join hands and sing…” – Now is the day.
We sing that we have come a long way. We sing that though we still have work to do to make Dr. King’s dream an absolute reality, we are working together, we all have a common dream and vision.
And I believe it will not be long before we all “join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”